Quick Tips #6: Theme

I find that many writers I work with (for those of you new to my site, I'm an editor as well as an author) are a bit fuzzy about theme. Some writing courses and literary "experts" can be pretentious about it, making beginner writers feel they'll never be able to understand the concept fully, let…

Dandelion Clocks

I'm delighted to announce that my short story "Dandelion Clocks" has won the 2021 NZSA Graeme Lay Short Story competition. In his announcement on Facebook today, Graeme said: Themes of childhood loss and the possibility of renewal make this beautifully observed and sensitively written story difficult to forget. Thank you, Graeme, and congratulations to the…

Our Father

I wrote this story ten years ago, after my father-in-law (at the time) died. I wanted to somehow make sense of my profound feelings at having witnessed his death. It was published in Takahē magazine (a literary journal) in 2013. Today, on Father's Day, I remember Carl Bosselmann, and everyone who has lost a father.…

Wrestling the Octopus: how to avoid writing a novel

At a certain point, a novel-in-progress starts to get a tad unwieldy. When you begin, you have a blank screen and the boundless enthusiasm of a puppy. After a few months you have a mountain of scrap paper scrawled with half-finished paragraphs and synopsis drafts, screeds of ideas jotted down and pinned all over the walls in your office,…

Beginnings

I'm going home next June. I was born in Northern Ireland, and lived with my Protestant minister father and my mother and two siblings in County Armagh, just by the border. In the seventies (yes I am that old) South Armagh was known as “bandit country” because it was such a dangerous place to be during…